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ISSUE 120 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/27/2006

Spooky spectres startle students

By Kirstin Fawcett
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 27, 2006

In 1991, Dean Kneser was busily working in his office when two frantic girls rushed into his office. The first girl had a fresh gash marring her forehead, and the second was injury-free but nevertheless frightened.

Kneser inquired as to how he could help the girls, but he was not expecting the strange request that followed: They wanted to see the “ghost files.”

A stymied Kneser told the girls he had never heard of such a thing.

The girls scoffed at his answer, saying that they had been warned he would deny everything they said.

Kneser, concerned and curious, quickly rose to his feet and walked down the hall to the associate dean of student's office, where he described the evening’s experience to his colleague.

Through chortles of laughter, the dean revealed to Kneser that the “ghost files” were an old campus urban myth. This “ghost file” that the girls had spoken of was purported to be an archive of ghostly campus occurrences, a collection so secret that its very existence had been vehemently denied by the administration for years.

Kneser headed back to his office, where he broke the news of the ghost file's nonexistence to the two skeptical girls. They then proceeded to tell him a story that was so unbelievable that –

Kneser abruptly broke off his Oct. 23 story session, as a student sitting at a piano pounded an ominous sounding chord for dramatic effect.

Nervous chuckles resonated through the room, as the residents of Hilleboe and Kittlesby squirmed in anticipation of hearing more paranormal tales – the reason for gathering in the Residence Hall’s lounge that night.

Among other things, Kneser is known for his camps ghost stories. Armed with a multitude of haunted tales, he leads tours across campus on cold, autumn nights and recounts his spooky stories at their supposed locations of occurrence.

Earlier this week, Kneser was about to lead the residents of Hill-Kitt on one such tour when he was interrupted by the piano.

Kneser did not resume his story of the two girls who stormed into his office 15 years ago, promising the would reveal its ending at the culmination of the tour.

He instead started a new story, this one about the dorm he was in at that moment, Hill-Kitt.

The story concerns an RA who had moved into Hilleboe several weeks before classes began for the year. Late one night, she was relaxing in her room when she heard somebody playing the piano in the lounge. A little girl started singing in a high-pitched voice along with the piano's melody, and then abruptly stopped. A few moments later the RA heard footsteps pattering out of the lounge and down the hall of the first floor, past her door.

The RA took several seconds to don her bathrobe and then peered out into the hall to catch a glimpse of what was presumably the little girl, only to see nothing. The startled RA proceeded to check the foyer of Hilleboe and to peer outside. However, the dorm was locked and nobody had moved in yet. How on earth could a little girl have gotten into the lounge in the middle of the night?

As the RA headed back to her room, she heard the sound of rushing water coming from five locked rooms across the hall. Upon further investigation, the RA found that someone (or something) had mysteriously turned on the sinks in all five rooms without first unlocking the doors.

After shutting off the water, the Hilleboe RA proceeded to grab her toothbrush and run to Mohn, where she slept every night until move-in day.

After guaranteeing that none of Hill-Kitt's residents would sleep that night, Kneser ushered everyone in the lounge out the door. He then led the group to the second spot on his haunted trail, Mellby Hall.

Mellby has several ghostly residents. A woman in a long, white dress has said to have been sighted in both student rooms and in the stairwell between the second and third floor.

Another one of Mellby's spectral sightings involves a man wearing a long coat and a wide-brimmed hat. He is said to have entered student's rooms, taken off his hat and attempted to hang it on their telephones.

After Mellby, the ghost tour trouped over to Kelsey Theater, where Elizabeth Kelsey herself is said to be the building's residential ghost. Kelsey, a beloved director for St. Olaf theater in the 1920's, was famous not only for her talent and leadership, but for her willingness to go above and beyond to help her students. After her death, several strange yet benevolent occurrences have happened to dramatists, causing students to believe that Kelsey's spirit had lingered on at Olaf.

After a quick stopover at Rolvaag Library, Kneser finished his tour at Thorson Hall. There, he continued the story of the two girls who had come to see him 10 years earlier, whose experience had influenced him to start the St. Olaf ghost files.

The two roommates were the best of friends. However, their relationship became strained after the girl who lived on the bottom of the bunk woke her roommate on several different nights with a bloodcurdling scream. The bottom-bunk sleeper claimed that she had seen a boy wearing a red cap sitting on the edge of her bed, in her desk chair and on the floor playing cards.

After fall break, the boy wearing the red cap did not visibly return to the two girls’ room for several months, though strange occurrences continued. The overhead light would flicker on and off, and for some reason, the CD player would only play certain songs on CDs, such as “Dy'er Maker” by Led Zeppelin or Pachelbel's “Canon in D.”

Late one night, both of the roommates woke up to see the ghost in the room. In their panic, one girl bashed her head against the railing over her bed.

The next morning, they sought out their RA, who told them of the purported “ghost files” and sent them to find Mr. Kneser.

Kneser had never dealt with the paranormal before.

The ghost later reappeared to one of the roommates, who then told the ghost firmly that she wanted him to go away and never come back. The ghost vanished and the two roommates never saw him again.

However, the boy with the red cap did not vanish for good. He has since been seen lurking in the hallways by various students.

After the ghost tour was concluded, the Hilleboe-Kittlesby students walked across campus back to their rooms, energized and excited from Dean Kneser's stories. However, even the most skeptical of the bunch could be seen gazing out of the corner of their eyes, expecting to catch a glimpse of a transparent white figure flitting through the dark night air.

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